Prick Up Your Ears (1987) - Rotten Tomatoes

Prick Up Your Ears1987

Prick Up Your Ears (1987)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Prick Up Your Ears Photos

Movie Info

This unadorned biography of playwright Joe Orton (Gary Oldman) charts his bawdy, dangerous relationships. Alfred Molina plays Orton's brutish lover, Kenneth Halliwell, a pathetic figure who becomes horrific and then tragic before the film is over. The hilarity of scenes from such Orton plays as "Loot" and "What the Butler Saw" is evenly balanced by the bleakness of the playwright's tormented (and tormenting) off-stage existence, which ended suddenly at age 34 with half a dozen blows to the head from a hammer. Prick Up Your Ears is based on the book by theater critic John Lahr, who is played in the film by Wallace Shawn.


Gary Oldman
as Joe Orton
Alfred Molina
as Kenneth Halliwell
Vanessa Redgrave
as Peggy Ramsay
Wallace Shawn
as John Lahr
Lindsay Duncan
as Anthea Lahr
Julie Walters
as Elsie Orton
James Grant
as William Orton
Janet Dale
as Mrs. Sugden
Dave Atkins
as Mr. Sugden
Margaret Tyzack
as Mme. Lambert
Eric Richard
as Education Officer
Linda Spurrier
as RADA Instructor
Charles McKowen
as Mr. Cunliffe
Selina Cadell
as Miss Datersby
Liam Staic
as Brickie
Bert Parnaby
as Magistrate
Frances Barber
as Leonie Orton
Stephen Bill
as George Barnett
Max Stafford-Clark
as Awards Chairman
William Job
as RADA Chairman
Rosalind Knight
as RADA Judge
Angus MacKay
as RADA Judge
Helena Michell
as Orton's Friend
Sean Pertwee
as Orton's Friend
Neil Dudgeon
as Policeman
Richard Wilson
as Psychiatrist
Michael Mueller
as BBC Actor
Anthony Douse
as BBC Actor
John Kane
as Director
Joanne Connelly
as Stage Manager
John Moffatt
as Wigmaker
Philippa Davies
as Peggy Ramsay's Secretary
David Cardy
as Brian Epstein
Julie Legrand
as Gallery owner
Noel Davis
as Philip
Jane Blackburn
as Woman in Gallery
Stella Richman
as Woman in Gallery
Neville Phillips
as Man in Gallery
Jonny Phillips
as Youth Outside Lavatory
Richard Ireson
as Man Outside Lavatory
Ahmed El-Jheur
as Moroccan Boy
Moktar Dagmouni
as Moroccan Boy
Sian Thomas
as Marilyn Orton
Karl Johnson
as Douglas Orton
David Bradley
as Undertaker
Simon Adams
as Undertaker's Boy
James Duggan
as Labourer
Mark Brignal
as Beatles' Chauffeur
Joan Sanderson
as Anthea's Mother
Neville Smith
as Police Inspector
Spencer Leigh
as Constable
John Salthouse
as Chauffeur
Robin Hooper
as Mortuary Attendant
View All

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Critic Reviews for Prick Up Your Ears

All Critics (35) | Top Critics (14)

Molina is superb as Halliwell, managing to not only depict a man gradually unravelling from intelligent and dignified to frenzied and paranoid but to cast him in a sympathetic light.

January 15, 2019 | Full Review…

Bennett and Frears, between them, have coaxed from Gary Oldman a performance which stunningly walks that tightrope between our fascination and our mistrust.

July 11, 2018 | Full Review…

As a portrait of a relationship and a creative partnership, Prick is ever alert to the shifts in power, to the narcissistic wounds that can never be salved when a teacher is surpassed by his pupil.

August 29, 2017 | Full Review…

A perfect storm of talent collides to create one of cinema's great doomed love dramas.

August 3, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Gary Oldman's superb livewire performance is now virtually an authentic testament of the man himself.

August 3, 2017 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Gary Oldman is excellent as Orton, right down to remarkable resemblance, while Alfred Molina creates both an amusing and tormented Halliwell. Vanessa Redgrave takes top honors, though, as a compassionate and benign agent.

March 26, 2009 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Prick Up Your Ears


I felt the film could have explored more of the brief career of Joe Orton because the film tends to brush over those parts a bit. However the performances of Oldman and Molina are amazing. Its too bad the film was released in 1987, because if it was done now I think the content wouldn't have made people ignore it.

Alec Barniskis
Alec Barniskis

Super Reviewer


Good little film about the life of Joe Orton. Alfred Molina is great as his lover Kenneth Halliwell. Plus an excellent script by Alan Bennet.

Emily B.
Emily B.

Super Reviewer


[font=Century Gothic][color=darkred]"Revengers Tragedy" is a movie based on the 17th century play by Thomas Middleton. In this version, it is updated to Liverpool in the near future where Vendici(Christopher Eccleston) is returning after a period of absence. He is back to swear vengeance against The Duke(Derek Jacobi, who does not have a lot to do), after he killed Vendici's bride in retaliation for her not wanting to have sex with him.(A good deal of this movie is taken up with men defending the honor of women. I can understand this happening in the 17th century but it's not likely for the present or anytime in the near future.) Other faults include the movie missing chances to have anything to say about 1) the nature of revenge and 2) the class structure.(The Duke is evil but Lord Antonio seems like a pretty alright guy.) But it is imaginatively staged with computer effects and is well acted especially by Christopher Eccleston and Eddie Izzard.[/color][/font] [font=Century Gothic][color=#8b0000][/color][/font] [font=Century Gothic][color=darkslateblue]"Prick Up Your Ears" is based on the lives and tempestual relationship of playwright Joe Orton(Gary Oldman) and Kenneth Halliwell(Alfred Molina). Orton's role in life seemed to be wreaking playful havoc in the straitlaced society of 50's and 60's Britain, from defacing library books to anonymous sex in lavatories. The movie is witty and engaging. It gives great insight into the characters and their love for each other. Both Oldman and Molina do a great job. And it's a joy watching Wallace Shawn and Vanessa Redgrave act together.[/color][/font] [font=Century Gothic][color=darkslateblue][/color][/font] [font=Century Gothic][color=darkslateblue](Very strange literary note: Alfred Molina invokes T.S. Eliot in "Prick Up Your Ears." He would do so again in "Spider Man 2.") [/color][/font]

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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